Net immigration fell from 242,000 in 2010-2011 to 183,000 in 2011-2012. In the year to September 2012, there were 210,921 student visas issued, a fall of 26% compared with the previous 12 months, after a clampdown on bogus colleges and immigration rackets. Critics say student numbers must not be counted as they are bound to rise this year.
The head of the academics' union, UCU, Sally Hunt said the government's "chaotic approach" to immigration risked harming the multi-billion-pound British education sector.
"Just last week, the prime minister had to try and convince Indian students that Britain still welcomed foreign students," she said.
"International students bring social and economic benefits to the country and the government could have sent a bold message today that British universities are open for business. Sadly, it is once again pandering to a domestic audience in a desperate effort to sound tough on immigration."